Martin Gross
Spending other people's money? Sub-national party positions on European integration and EU cohesion policy

ECPR General Conference, Charles University Prague, September 07th to September 10th, 2016

Citizens’ confidence in the problem-solving capacities of the European Union (EU) has been shaken during the severe economic and sovereign debt crisis in Europe. This casts doubt on the future of the European integration process. One key element of EU’s attempt to foster citizens’ identification with the EU has been (and still is) its cohesion policy. This policy targets regions and cities across the te EU with the overall goal of improving citizens’ quality of life. Since cohesion policy accounts for almost one-third of the total EU budget in 2014-20 it should attract the attention of political parties–both at the national and regional level–to promote and communicate this policy among citizens, in particular by referring to potentially financial benefits of several structural funds. However, it is surprising that there is no data available on sub-national party positions on either European integration or EU cohesion policy (CP). This paper addresses this gap by demonstrating two ways of fully-computerised methods of content analysis (‘Wordscores’ and ‘Wordfish’) to extract the European policy positions of parties acting on the sub-national level in several EU Member States. Methodologically, the results show that ‘Wordscores’ and, to a lesser extent, also ‘Wordfish’ are capable of locating sub-national parties on the policy dimensions of European integration and EU cohesion policy. Empirically, the findings give a first hint whether and how political representation of European integration and CP differs between political parties, regions, and countries.